Proposed Heritage Construction

April 04, 2008

Times Colonist

An 11-storey commercial and boutique residential project is being proposed for one of the few remaining surface parking lots in Victoria's Old Town.

The project at 608 Broughton St. blends both heritage and contemporary design aspects -- something that doesn't sit well with some on city council, although others say that's the best approach for new construction in a heritage setting.

Councillors debated at length whether the building should be more "rectilinear or curvilinear" in its design. Councillors Helen Hughes and Bea Holland applauded the juxtaposition of the heritage-style frontage for the first nine storeys, capped with two curving and recessed glassed contemporary-designed floors.

"I enjoy the difference between the upper and lower floors," said Hughes, adding that she has always understood that when there is a new building in a heritage area there should be a difference between the old and the new styles.

But the top curved contemporary floors drew criticism from councillors Pam Madoff and Charlayne Thornton- Joe.

"The roofline is a little too contemporary to be around other heritage buildings," said Thornton-Joe. Madoff is upset the project escaped the scrutiny of both the advisory planning commission and the heritage commission, because its application to the city fell outside the time period set out for such a review.

"This is one of the first new buildings in Old Town that I can remember in a long time. We need to get it right," said Madoff.

The building is one of the first to come under new design guidelines set for Old Town, an area roughly bounded by Douglas, Chatham and Humboldt streets and the waterfront.

Developer David Chard, who specializes in smaller mixed-use development projects, presented the project twice to the city's advisory design panel before it was recommended for approval.

Chard said he is the fourth developer in recent history to try to develop the small parking lot. Concert Properties at one time had an interest in the property but wanted to consolidate several properties in the block.

No public hearing is required for the project, which meets the zoning requirements, and the developer is not requesting any variances. Councillors gave the project preliminary approval, but asked the developer to consider making changes to a cantilevered canopy on the top of the building.

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